Almost anyone’s life can be turned into an intriguing book. So what happens when the most interesting stories are written by excellent writers? A nonfiction book that blows your mind is created! Whether it be a memoir about growing up in extreme poverty or a narrative of plane-crash survivors, true stories are some of the most interesting and important reads. If you need any help deciding which nonfiction title to read next, look no further. Let us know what you would add to the list!
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls lived anything but an ordinary life. In The Glass Castle, Walls takes her deeply personal story of familial dysfunction, poverty, displacement, and insanely entertaining parents, and turns it into one of the most passionate memoir’s of the 21st century. While the book is a study of her own family (who despite all their issues were incredibly devoted to one another), Walls also delves into the world of American socioeconomic issues. The Glass Castle is a truly fascinating, contemporary American memoir.
Stories of plane crash survivors are always intriguing – it is nearly impossible to imagine (and this is not the only plane crash story on this list). Into the Abyss is about more than a plane crash. In 1948, a small plane carrying 9 people crashed and only four survived: the pilot, a politician (whose daughter wrote the book), a cop, and the criminal he was traveling with. As the title suggests, the story is more than just that of survival; it is a report about just how much the lives of all four men were transformed. The book is such an emotional roller coaster with twists and turns fit for fiction.
This is the heartbreaking story of Lia Lee, the daughter of Hmong immigrants living in a Hmong community in California, who developed epilepsy and eventually became brain dead. But what Fadiman uncovered is the devastating consequences of cultural misunderstanding. On the one hand, Lia’s family refuses to assimilate and accept western medicine, on the other, American doctors ‘knew’ she wasn’t getting the medicine or help she needed. The book is beautifully written and is, in the end, an amazing study of community and American and immigrant culture.
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
LeBlanc’s memoir about life in a poverty-stricken Bronx ghetto shows just how chaotic and scary it is. Random Family explores a number of families, providing an in-depth view of life from inside the ghetto – from revealing the truth behind ‘gangsta glamour’ to fearing the DEA and FBI, to making it through homelessness. LeBlanc’s stirring story documents the truth of America’s socioeconomic woes.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Unless you have read this book or studied medicine, it’s likely you’ve never heard of Henrietta Lacks and have no idea just how important her cells have been for medicine and human health. Mrs. Lacks, a poor Southern woman descended from slaves, suffered from cervical cancer. Before she died, doctors took her cells and proceeded to make incredible discoveries and advances in medicine – including the polio vaccine – without the knowledge of her or her family. Skloot portrays the amazing history of Henrietta Lacks, the ridiculous amount of racism involved in her life, her case, and her family, and the legally-troubling history of African Americans in science.
When Heaven and Earth Change Places by Le Ly Hayslip
The Vietnam War has been covered extensively from the American perspective, but what was it like to be Vietnamese during the terrifying war? Le Ly Hayslip, a powerful woman and writer, provides this important memoir that goes behind the scene from the point of view of the Vietnamese. Her book is a harrowing account of what happened to her small village as Viet Cong and American troops fought around them.
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
In the 1960s, well-known author John Steinbeck took his dog Charley and journeyed through the United States. As an observant and thoughtful writer traveling through a vast country with a multitude of cultures, John Steinbeck created a fascinating book about the quest to find America’s identity. Travels with Charley is both a self-reflective memoir and a study of American conflicts (namely racism, as it was written during the Civil Rights Era).
Alive! The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read
The story of sixteen members of a rugby team who survived a plane crash in the Andes mountains shocked the world back in 1972. The young survivors endured ten weeks in the isolated, snow-capped mountains and faced immeasurable hardships – the stuff of nightmares. Without exploiting the tragic true story, Read tastefully recounts the astounding story of survival, resilience, and unforgiving nature.